In a prescient move before leaving London I acquired two boxes of twenty latex gloves, creepy surgical-type protective things. They bring to mind condoms and an unpleasant experience I once had when, with no word of preparation or warning, a doctor conducted an examination of my prostate. I am still not sure for whose benefit he wore the glove.
The idea with the gloves is that they allow me to do the many greasy, oily and painty jobs required on board the boat without sullying my delicate artist’s hands – thereby facilitating the ‘author afloat’ life I’ve been hankering for.
And many of those 40 gloves have been consumed.
In St Valéry en Caux, Serge – the local engineer who thinks nothing of glovelessly dowsing a pump case with acid so strong it makes it fizz – showed me how to change the oil and the filters on both engines.
On the way to Dieppe I changed the seawater pump impellor, for reasons I’d rather not go into.
In Boulogne it was the anchor windlass that needed servicing, a job that has yet to be completed and which involves a lot of wire wool, wire brushes, and grease.
Dunkerque? Dismantling and cleaning of heat exchanger.
Here in Nieuwpoort – cleaning the engine and touching up the paint.
Somewhere along the way – I have mentally repressed enough of the experience to be unsure where – a toilet shredder blocked and needed, well, unblocking. Suffice to say that if you block the toilet when you visit us, I’ll provide the gloves for you to wear.
A few interesting things emerge from this. One is that I surprisingly quite enjoy the boat-maintenance stuff. Another is that it can be an all-consuming time-thief, especially when fruitless trips to chandlers are taken into account. One more is that we have made it to Belgium, much to Mrs C’s pleasure. Finally, those gloves – they don’t work. Holes quickly appear at the tips of the fingers and my elegant artist’s hands have been transformed into battered, stained and painful artisan’s mitts.
Luckily, with all this labour there is no time for writing novels or anything like that anyway.